Me and Mama and Big John

by Dianne White on October 31, 2013

Post image for Me and Mama and Big John

Me and Mama and Big John by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by William Low

Mama has a new job working in a big fancy church in New York City called Big John. She and others have been trained as stonecutters in conjunction with an apprentice program that the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine offered to the young unemployed residents of the community.

Begun in 1982, the apprentice program lasted some 25 years. One of those apprentices, Carol Hazel, a single mother to four, inspired Me and Mama and Big John. Hers is a quiet but powerful story of the pride and dignity felt by those who lovingly transformed gray stone to art  – “Not for an art to look at. For an art to be.”

Reflecting back on her time working at the cathedral, Hazel says today, “Stonecutting is in my blood. The cathedral is a beautiful thing, and beautiful people helped build it.”

In a world in which many clamor for attention, this is a story of devotion. Mama’s stone wouldn’t garner any awards and would take its place beside many similar stones to form the cathedral tower. And yet her work was honorable and noble. A good reminder for all of us, children and adults.

For more about St. John and the artisan program, readers might enjoy this NY Times article from 1987, which also includes a short piece about Carol Hazel.

Carol Baldwin November 1, 2013 at 4:15 pm

SOunds like a great book and inspiring to young and old readers.

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